Description from TIFF 2006 catalog by Thom Powers:

Bob Bechtel is the epitome of mild-mannered. In his early seventies, he~s soft-spoken, with a nervous laugh. He teaches psychology at the University of Arizona and has a loving wife and two grown daughters. But for fifty years he~s kept a secret from his friends and colleagues. When he finally chose to reveal it, director Macky Alston was there to film what happened.

Bob Bechtel is a killer. One night in 1955, while a student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, he went on a shooting rampage, killing classmate Holmes Strozier in his sleep. He was committed to a hospital for the criminally insane and released five years later. There was no felony conviction, in part because Strozier~s parents wrote a letter of forgiveness to the judge. Today, Bechtel claims he lost it after intense bullying; he hopes his case will draw attention to the effects of bullying.

But the revelation dredges up more than anticipated. Despite her devotion, his wife, Bev, admits there~s a piece of him that~s frightening. His stepdaughter Amanda wonders how her mother could marry a man she knew was a killer; his biological daughter Carrah is haunted knowing that her father~s second chance resulted in her birth. Even more conflicted is the victim~s brother, John Strozier, who takes issue with Bechtel~s version of history. So do other Swarthmore classmates: one writes, “Robert Bechtel was never bullied or harassed. If he believes this, it is a product of his insane mind.

The Killer Within probes all sides debate with compassion. Impressive camera work and a score by the Kronos Quartet enhance the film~s potency. Bechtel subjects himself to questioning by psychologists and criminologists. Carrah tracks down former classmates to hear their varying perspectives. The family travels back to Swarthmore to look for more clues.

This is a murder mystery where the question is not who, but why. Audiences are compelled to question the meaning of sanity, morality, redemption and the violence that continues to haunt America. Bob Bechtel may be mild-mannered “~ but you won~t forget him.

About the director:
Macky Alston was born in Auburn, Alabama and received his B.A. in art history from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary. He made his feature-length documentary debut in 1997 with Family Name, followed by Questioning Faith: Confessions of a Seminarian (02). The Killer Within (06) is his third feature documentary.

Visit the film’s official website:

Buy the film:
Josh Braun, Submarine Entertainment
(212) 625-1410